It’s that special time of year–the time to revisit some of our favorites listens from 2014, as well as some things you maybe haven’t heard yet, but definitely should check out. It’s always a challenge to create a list that speaks to the vast regions and styles that we cover here at Remezcla, and while we do our best to catch as much music as possible every year, surely there’s some greatness that might’ve slipped through the cracks. However, we hope that this list is representative of the beauty of working with a team of writers spread out internationally, bringing us radically different tastes with their expertise spread through scenes around the map.
In setting out to create a list that encompasses the regions, genres, and scenes leading the pack, here are the top 30 tracks we’ve been feeling in 2014.
Romeo Santos feat. Drake – "Odio"
Haters, you are formally invited to hate. Okay, we’ll give you that the opening spoken lines “Hate is a sign of admiration/ Hate is the epitome of destruction” hint at a Zoolander-y cadence, but it only gets better from there. As it’s always been, pop culture and the underground in actuality have never been that far apart from each other, and that “bachata bass” could be coined a thing signals a quick-moving approximation of the two blending together. I’m welcoming of the idea that high-brow and low-brow (and all of their implications) are terms that can soon be forgotten. What we’re trying to say is, let’s just have a good time to a quality track, regardless of its pop culture positioning. –Sara Skolnick
Bomba Estereo – “Qué Bonito”
Could they have come up with a better title? I think not. Seriously, everything about this track screams beautiful feelings. Linking Afrobeat with old school bachata (no, not you Prince Royce), the band has written an irresistibly song for all the lovelorn lovers and smiling people to get together and dance really close. The synths feel organic, the guitars are insistent, and the rhythm is tight, but that’s not what makes the track special. “Qué Bonito” effortlessly conjures a feeling of ecstasy and happiness that few pieces of music can. The song is hard but it’s also sunny and joyful. It captures the immortal feeling of a great party where everyone is having the time of their lives and there’s nothing to hold them back–it’s a simple feeling but one we can all relate and use in our lives. It’s a celebration, it’s a riot, it’s a memory happening in the moment, getting etched in our brain forever. –Marcos Hassan
Erick Rincón and Siete Catorce – "Espectro"
Erick Rincón and Siete Catorce teamed up for the collaboration of “post-nortec, post-tribal, post-ruidosón, post-whatever era” dreams to bring us “Espectro.” Rincón–one of the artists that brought the tribal guarachero sound to the mainstream alongside his 3Ball MTY mates Sheeqo and DJ Otto–shows here that he still remains connected to the pulse of underground Mexican culture, even after significant radio and commercial moves. Here, he’s collaborated with ruidosón guarachero innovator Siete Catorce, and the two have integrated noticeably dark, heaving undercurrents into the pre-hispanic rooted aesthetic that continues to be reinvented right along at the lightspeed pace of digital music culture. –Sara Skolnick
Ratking – "Canal"
Bow down y’all. NYC finally has its new kings of Hip-Hop in Ratking, a.k.a. the trio of Sporting Life, Wiki, and Hak. The trio took the world by storm thanks to their debut album, So It Goes, earlier this year packed with choice cuts like the very frantic “Canal.” Everything on this track flies by in a New York minute (do people still use that phrase?), what with Wiki and Hak’s rhymes flowing against and trying to catch up with the beat and that weird tire-skid sample. A track like this would fall apart in the hands of mere mortals but, thankfully, we’re dealing with some pros here. –Afroxander
The Guadaloops – "Ven"
Odds are y’all probably slept on The Guadaloops what with 2014 having given us so much hip-hop to absorb. Thankfully, we got you covered with this year-end list. The Mexico City trio of Ferdinand González, Fermín Héctor Sánchez, and Franco Genel (alias Tino El Pingüino) are giving us a real mindfuck with their style of hip-hop/R&B thanks to some hella sexy classical guitar work. It’s a wonderful fusion of the old and new. –Afroxander
Las Robertas – “Marlene”
“Marlene” is quite possibly Las Robertas’ best song to date, and so for that alone it makes the list, because the best Robertas song is better than many, many, many things. Off their sophomore LP, Days Unmade, “Marlene” does the scuzzy flash-garage thing extra well, laying it on thick with the hazy/lazy vocals, competing instruments, and distortion. It’s all charm, all the time. –Paola Capó-García
Andrea Balency’s – “You’ve Never Been Alone”
The return of French-Mexican chanteuse Andrea Balency was an unexpected one. We, and everyone who’s familiar with her previous output as a member of the Andrea Balency Trio and Torreblanca, were caught off-guard with the release of “You’ve Never Been Alone,” the first single from her Airhead-produced EP Walls. Here we have her, in a full current R&B mode, sitting next to acts like AlunaGeorge. Production is on point, and Balency’s voice is still as versatile as it ever was, ranging from the subtle whisper to the controlled power vocal performance. The song was the first taste of her new direction and set of influences, and it was a pleasant surprise. –Cheky
Álvaro Díaz – “La Milla de Oro"
“Mañana” may be the track that finally got Puerto Rico’s Álvaro Díaz on the radio this year, but if any track embodies the DIY grind he was on in 2014 – and his sky-high ambitions – it’s “La Milla de Oro.” As part of Lv Ciudvd collective, Díaz and his collaborators have set out to bring the sounds dominating rap on the mainland (808s and hi-hats, sticky synths, pitched-down, chopped and screwed vocal samples) to la isla del encanto, where reggaeton has ruled the roost for the last 10 years. Alongside producers Caleb Calloway and Young Martino, he’s been churning out tracks all year that would sound at home on Hot 97, filled with clever bars and club-ready beats.
But Díaz is out to prove he can do more than clone U.S. party trap, and “La Milla de Oro” hints at this potential. Here, he slows down his sinuous flow, showing he’s got the chops to sit on a slow beat; and though he hits well-trodden rap territory (ex-girlfriends who ain’t shit, dreams of buying his mom a jag, puff-chested boasts about his skills) his punchlines keep things fresh. Then, about 3 minutes in, things take a hard swerve into grime, transforming what would have been a solid blunt-rolling track into something more than the sum of its parts.
In our Trilligan’s Island feature, Díaz explained “All the artists I truly admire – MIA, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar – they didn’t sound like nobody, that’s my main goal. They only sound we’re trying to do is the Álvaro Díaz sound.” If he keeps pushing in this direction, he’ll be on his way. – Andrea Gompf
Deers – "Bamboo"
Hey, Patrick J. Carney, the drummer of The Black Keys, recently said this was one of his favorite songs of the year. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that “Bamboo” made it to our Best Tracks of 2014, too. And why wouldn’t it? After all, with only a few songs to their name, Madrid’s darlings have managed to touch the very heart of UK/US’ DIY rock community thanks to their blinding twee enchantment and the garage pop vibes they naturally radiate in general. I mean, listening to “Bamboo” totally kicks in like a 40oz after a rough day in school. Not many songs have that effect on us. Hope to see them again among our 2015’s favorites! –Eric Gamboa
Quantic – "La Plata" ft. Nidia Gongora
Props to Will “Quantic” Holland for basically making the Colombian version of Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.” “La Plata,” a Get Money, Get Paid mantra in the form of folklor caribeño, is a tropi-pari track primed for dance floor bodyrolling. The song riffs on chirimía, a musical genre from Colombia’s coastal Chocó state with a marching band-style of percussion and brass, and sees Holland flexing his confidence with the regional sounds of Colombia. The propulsive snares set the mood, but it’s singer Nidia Gongora who really steals the show; her playfully tossed off “mi money money” is now what I gleefully sing to myself every pay day. –Andrea Gompf